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An Examination of Policies, Programs, and Strategies That Address Bullying in Virginia Public School Systems Open Access

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Bullying incidents in schools are getting more attention since the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado. Many national and state policies have been enacted since that fateful day. In Virginia, legislation passed by the 1999 General Assembly (§22.1-208.01) required local school boards to establish a character education program in their schools. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001) holds schools accountable for providing a safe learning environment. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how the public schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia are addressing bullying and to answer the following questions: What policies and programs are public school administrators in Virginia implementing to address bullying? What strategies and practices are public school administrators in Virginia utilizing to address bullying? What future directions are educational administrators of Virginia planning to take to address and reduce bullying? Structured interviews by telephone and e-mail with school personnel responsible for school safety and discipline in 12 out of 134 school systems in Virginia were utilized in this qualitative study. Most of the questions in the interview protocol were open-ended. The data revealed that all 12 school divisions that participated in this study had policies and programs to address bullying. Eleven of the 12 school divisions reported having strategies to address bullying and having future plans to promote positive student behaviors and future directions for managing bullying. Results of this study also revealed that there is a definite need for school systems to reexamine their current policies and practices to address specific classroom interventions; to address cyberbullying; and, to support all bullying victims, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students.

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